Choosing an Adviser

First-year students are advised by the director of graduate studies. This will continue into the second year until the student acquires a (provisional) thesis adviser. After you’ve decided on the faculty member and he or she has agreed to be your adviser, return the signed agreement to the academic program coordinator or the director of graduate studies. Prospective advisers may want to get to know you better before committing themselves, e.g., by giving you a “warm-up” project.

It is best to choose an adviser by the end of your second year. At first, the arrangement is contingent upon your passing the major oral exam. After that, an adviser will help you select a thesis topic, and will be your guide through your first research project.

In choosing an adviser, you should determine—from the courses you have taken and books that you have read—which direction best suits your interests and abilities. You should also attend seminars to get a sense of the different areas of research. The afternoon teas that precede the seminars are a good opportunity to talk to faculty members about their research interests. You can also get to know faculty members at other department functions, during office hours, or following a class.